Sask. hockey teams' trip to Winnipeg tournament put 'entire safe restart of the province at risk': premier

Saskatchewan’s premier and chief medical health officer said they were disappointed to learn of hockey teams travelling to Manitoba to participate in a private tournament. 

Chief medical health officer says team's travel to out-of-province tournament will be looked into

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said he was disturbed to learn of a group of hockey teams traveled to Manitoba to take part in a private hockey tournament earlier this month. (Michael Bell/Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan's premier and chief medical health officer said Wednesday they were disappointed to learn of hockey teams travelling to Manitoba to participate in a private tournament.

On Tuesday, CBC News reported that five teams had travelled from Saskatchewan to Winnipeg to participate in a private hockey tournament on the weekend of July 16 to 19. The Saskatchewan government recommends against non-essential travel to other provinces. Under Saskatchewan's reopening plan, guidelines for sports and activities state: "Tournaments and interprovincial competition are not permitted." 

Premier Scott Moe said it was disturbing that people would be selfish enough to not cancel a trip to a hockey tournament while others in Saskatchewan were making significant sacrifices by foregoing events like weddings or funerals to abide by COVID-19 regulations.

"I'm just disappointed that a few teams would put the entire safe restart of the province at risk," he said. 

"Here is a prime example of a group of people putting their own self-interests ahead of the greater public health and safety of their neighbours, of their family and of their community." 

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, said he, too, was disappointed to learn of the teams' participation in an interprovincial hockey tournament. 

Specifically, he said he was disappointed to learn that some teams took measures to hide their identities, including listing players only by their initials, changing the team names and telling parents not to post on social media about the tournament. 

"There will be a follow-up to understand why this happened and appropriate steps will be taken," Shahab said. 

"We've always been very progressive in enforcement of public health orders and we will advise based on the initial assessment."

The Saskatchewan Hockey Association (SHA) said in an interview that the teams were playing in unsanctioned games, so they cannot be punished by the organization.

However, SHA General Manager Kelly McClintock noted punishment may be handed out at a local level. 

"A lot of those people are involved in our programming in the fall and the winter and some of those people at local minor hockey have upset local minor hockey people," he said.

"There might be some things locally, maybe some people aren't allowed to coach. But that's up to a local minor hockey association." 

Steve Silvernagle, GM of the Wheatland Wild — an organization that sent four teams to Winnipeg — has not yet commented on the situation. 

Team officials previously told CBC News there was a misunderstanding created by an email conversation with the province's business response team, which led them to believe they were okay to travel and participate in the tournament.

The Saskatchewan government confirmed late Tuesday evening that its business response team had given the wrong advice in an email in response to an inquiry after the tournament.

"This message has since been retracted and corrected to be consistent with government public health messaging provided by the SHA. Currently, interprovincial travel is discouraged, but not banned. Interprovincial travel for competition for tournaments is not permitted at this time," said the government email.

With files from Bonnie Allen, Fiona Odlum


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